(19)
(11)EP 2 850 702 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
26.02.2020 Bulletin 2020/09

(21)Application number: 13727301.7

(22)Date of filing:  03.05.2013
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
H01R 13/633(2006.01)
H01R 103/00(2006.01)
H01R 24/22(2011.01)
H01R 13/627(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/GB2013/000195
(87)International publication number:
WO 2013/171440 (21.11.2013 Gazette  2013/47)

(54)

LOCKING ELECTRICAL CONNECTOR

ELEKTRISCHER STECKVERBINDER

CONNECTEUR ÉLECTRIQUE DE VERROUILLAGE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 18.05.2012 GB 201208834

(43)Date of publication of application:
25.03.2015 Bulletin 2015/13

(73)Proprietor: Scolmore International Limited
Tamworth, Staffordshire B79 5AQ (GB)

(72)Inventor:
  • HISCOKE, Daniel
    Tamworth Staffordshire B77 5FE (GB)

(74)Representative: Badger, John Raymond 
J.R. Badger & Co. 6 Simpson Road
Wylde Green Sutton Coldfield West Midlands B72 1EP
Wylde Green Sutton Coldfield West Midlands B72 1EP (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
DE-U1-202011 108 080
US-A1- 2011 250 791
US-B1- 7 318 740
US-A1- 2010 087 084
US-A1- 2012 052 714
US-B1- 7 473 124
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description


    [0001] This invention relates to a locking electrical connector such as a connector used to connect between items of electrical equipment or to connect electrical equipment to a power supply.

    [0002] Some prior art connectors have been designed to reduce the ease with which the connector, whether in the form of a plug or socket, may be removed from or inadvertently may fall out from a mating socket or plug. A known solution, used commonly in computer equipment, is for screws or clips to be provided at either side of the connector to retain the connector attached to the equipment. However screwing or clipping the connector to the equipment is laborious and in many cases is rendered difficult by space limitations.

    [0003] To address this problem it is known for a connector to be provided with a locking mechanism which a user needs to operate in order to separate the connector from a mating connector component.

    [0004] An example of a well-known and successful locking connector is that described in our UK patent GB 2383202. Other connectors are described in US 7473124, US 2010/087084, US 2011/250791, US 2012/052714 and US 7318740.

    [0005] US 2010/087084 is considered to disclose the preamble of independent claim 1.

    [0006] However, particularly in respect of computers and similar such electrical equipment the continuing drive for compactness of construction has resulted in a substantial reduction in the space envelope that conventionally has surrounded a removable connector.

    [0007] Thus, for example, recently introduced types of PCU feature in proximity to the connector position additional metallic tabs or handles for easy removal from a server back. Due to the compactness of equipment design the release tab provided on many types of lockable electrical connectors prevents insertion, and in other cases the limited space envelope in proximity to the connector prevents access to the release control at such time as it may be required to remove the connector.

    [0008] Typically the reduction of space envelope around a connector, when in situ connected to a mating plug or socket of an electrical equipment, is confined to a region which extends away from the equipment by a distance no greater than the length of the connector. Accordingly it should be possible to overcome the problem arising from the reduced space envelope by providing connectors having a longer length body. Thus the release control may then be spaced further from the interface end of the connector, at a position clear of, for example, any metallic tabs or handles. However that solution suffers the disadvantage that it would substantially negate the space reduction advantage which the more compactly designed equipment seeks to achieve. That is because a greater space would be required between the equipment and the wall or other surface in front of which the equipment is positioned in order to accommodate the longer length connector.

    [0009] The present invention seeks to provide an improved locking electrical connector which may be employed with more modern electrical equipment and without requiring a greater spacing between the equipment and the surrounding environment.

    [0010] In accordance with one aspect of the present invention an electrical connector of elongate shape comprises a main body having a first end region which comprises one or more electrical contacts adapted for contact with a complementary connector component and a second end region opposite said first end region and from which extends a protective guide through which a flexible conductor may extend, said main body of the connector comprising a locking mechanism to enable the connector to be selectively releasably secured to a complementary connector component, the connector comprising a release control operatively associated with the locking mechanism for release of the connector from the complementary connector component, and a handle operable at a position further from the first end region of the connector than said second end region as considered in the direction of the length of the connector and wherein said handle is supported relative to the protective guide by being connected to or formed integrally with the release control, wherein the main body or protective guide comprises two opposite side faces each formed with one of a groove or groove engaging projection which co-operates with a respective one of two groove or groove engaging formations of the handle thereby, in use, to assist in supporting and guiding movement of the handle in a direction substantially parallel with the length direction of the elongate electrical connector, characterised in that the handle is of an open, tubular shape which extends around the protective guide and comprises four side faces being apertured or comprising a recess to provide a finger grip position.

    [0011] Preferably the release control is operable from a position aligned with said protective guide, again as considered in the length direction of the connector.

    [0012] The locking mechanism may be of a kind which effects a locking action between the electrical contact of the connector and that of the complementary connector component, for example to effect a locking action between a conductive pin and a conductive socket. Thus it may be of the type described in more detail in our UK patent, GB 2383202. Alternatively, however, it may be of a kind which effects a locking action between the main body of the connector and a body or other part of the complementary connector component.

    [0013] The locking member may be positioned within the main body of the connector and the release control may connect to the locking mechanism from a position at the surface of the main body, preferably at a position close to said second end region of the main body.

    [0014] The finger grip positions, such as recesses or apertures, assist ease of application of force to actuate the release control to unlock the locking mechanism and facilitate withdrawal of the connector from a complementary connector component.

    [0015] The release control is movable in the length direction of the connector, between a first, locking position and a second, release position. Preferably bias means is provided, for example as a part of the locking mechanism, whereby the release control normally resides in the first, locking position but on application of force applied to the handle in the lengthwise direction of the connector, in a direction from the first to the second end region of the connectors, effects movement of the release control to the second, release position.

    [0016] The handle preferably has a cross-sectional shape which is no larger than the maximum cross-sectional shape of the main body, as considered in the length direction of the connector.

    [0017] Preferably the release control does not protrude from the surface of the main body, as considered relative to said cross-sectional shape of the main body.

    [0018] The handle has four side faces and said faces are apertured or comprise a recess to provide a finger grip position. Thus operation of the handle from any access direction is assisted. The protective guide for the cable or other form of conductor extending to the main body of the connector typically is semi-flexible as compared with the relatively rigid main body. Thus it serves to minimise the risk of the conductor being subject to potentially damaging sharp changes of direction at the exit region from the second end of the main body of the connector. The distal end of the handle preferably is spaced from the protective guide whereby in normal use it does not inhibit flexibility of the guide.

    [0019] When force is applied to the handle to move it away from said first end region, the handle is guided to move in a direction substantially parallel with the length direction of the elongate electrical connector.

    [0020] Although some features of the present invention have been described in combination with other features of the present invention, it is to be understood that said features may be provided independently of one another or in combinations which differ from those specifically described.

    [0021] One embodiment of the present invention will now be describe, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying diagrammatic drawings in which:-

    Figure 1 is a perspective view of a connector in accordance with the present invention, in combination with an electrical cable;

    Figure 2 is an exploded perspective view of the connector of Figure 1;

    Figure 3 is a view in the direction of arrow A of Figure 1;

    Figure 4 is a view in the direction of arrow B of Figure 1, and

    Figure 5 is a view in the direction of arrow C of Figure 1.



    [0022] A connector of the IEC type (known commonly as a "kettle plug") socket and of elongate shape comprises a main body 11, a cable guide 12 for a cable 13, a release control 14 and a handle 15.

    [0023] The main body houses three sockets 16 to which respective conductors of the cable 13 are connected, the sockets being exposed via openings 17 in the first end region 18 of the main body.

    [0024] The main body 11 incorporates also a locking mechanism 20 which, in the locking position and when in use of the connector to connect to a complementary connector component, engages with a pin inserted in one of the sockets so as to prevent withdrawal from the pin until the locking mechanism, under action of the release control 14, is moved to a release condition. A suitable locking mechanism is described in more detail in GB2383202.

    [0025] The release control 14 comprises a tab like formation 21 located in and exposed at a recess in a side surface 22 of the main body, adjacent a second end region 24 of the main body. The tab formation 21 operatively connects with the locking mechanism 20. A spring 25 of the locking mechanism normally biases the tab 21 of the release control 14 to reside in the position as shown in Figure 4.

    [0026] The handle 15 is of an open-sided, tubular form having a length substantially the same as that of the cable guide 12 which depends from the second end region 24 of the main body. The handle 15 is a plastics moulding which in this embodiment of the invention is formed integrally with the tab 21 of the release control 14. Alternatively the handle may be secured by other means relative to the tab 21.

    [0027] As considered in a cross-sectional plane perpendicular to the length of the elongate connector the handle has an outer cross-sectional profile substantially equal to the maximum cross-sectional outer profile of the main body as is evident from the views of Figures 3 to 5.

    [0028] Each of the four side faces of the handle is apertured and provides a curved surface 27 against which a finger may readily apply force to move the handle away form the main body, in a direction parallel with the length of the connector.

    [0029] In addition to being integral with the release control 14 the handle is provided at two side faces 28, 29 with two small lugs 30, 31 which engage with grooves 32 in the sides of the cable guide 12 thereby to assist in maintaining the handle aligned with the connector when the release control is in the locking position, and to assist with guiding the handle when moved in a direction away from said first end region 18.

    [0030] Although the lugs 30 at one end of the handle contact the cable guide, the handle in general is spaced from the handle guide. The handle is of a substantially uniform wall thickness and thus, because of the tapered shape of the cable guide, the spacing between the handle and guide progressively increases in a direction towards the distal end of the cable guide. Thus the handle does not inhibit the ability of the guide to flex in the intended manner for minimising cable damage due to sharp changes of direction.

    [0031] To release the locking mechanism it is necessary merely to engage with one or more of the curved handle surfaces 27 to pull the handle in a direction away from the main body. In consequence of that action the release control 14 is slid in a direction away from the first end region 18 of the connector, against the action of the bias spring 25, thereby to effect release of the locking mechanism 14. Continued application of force on the handle then effects separation of the connector from a complementary connector component to which the connector may have been connected.

    [0032] Accordingly it will be understood that the present invention provides a connector which is suitable for use in connecting to equipment that restricts the space envelope around the main body of the connector, and that the ability for release of the locking mechanism is achieved without any requirement to increase the conventional longitudinal length of the connector.


    Claims

    1. An electrical connector of elongate shape comprises a main body (11) having a first end region (18) which comprises one or more electrical contacts adapted for contact with a complementary connector component and a second end region (24) opposite said first end region and from which extends a protective guide (12) through which a flexible conductor may extend, said main body of the connector comprising a locking mechanism (20) to enable the connector (10) to be selectively releasably secured to a complementary connector component, the connector (10) comprising a release control (14) operatively associated with the locking mechanism for release of the connector from the complementary connector component, and a handle (15) operable at a position further from the first end region (18) of the connector than said second end region (24) as considered in the direction of the length of the connector and wherein said handle (15) is supported relative to the protective guide (12) by being connected to or formed integrally with the release control (14), wherein the main body (11) or protective guide (12) comprises two opposite side faces each formed with one of a groove or groove engaging projection (31, 32) which co-operates with a respective one of two groove (32) or groove engaging formations of the handle thereby, in use, to assist in supporting and guiding movement of the handle in a direction substantially parallel with the length direction of the elongate electrical connector, characterised in that the handle (15) is of an open, tubular shape which extends around the protective guide (12) and comprises four side faces being apertured or comprising a recess (27) to provide a finger grip position.
     
    2. A connector according to claim 1 characterised in that the release control (14) is operable from a position aligned to be parallel with said protective guide as considered in the length direction of the connector.
     
    3. A connector according claim 1 or claim 2 characterised in that the locking mechanism (20) is positioned within the main body of the connector and the release control (14) connects to the locking mechanism from a position at the surface of the main body.
     
    4. A connector according to any one of the preceding claims characterised in that the handle (15) is integral with the release control.
     
    5. A connector according to any one of the preceding claims characterised in that the handle (15) comprises two pairs of oppositely positioned finger grip positions.
     
    6. A connector according to any one of the preceding claims and characterised in that it comprises bias means (25) whereby the release control (14) normally resides in a first, locking position but on application of force applied to the handle (15) in the length direction of the connector, to act against the bias means, in a direction from the first end region (18) to the second end region (24) of the connector, effects movement of the release control to the second, release position.
     
    7. A connector according to any one of the preceding claims characterised in that the handle (15) is of a cross-sectional shape no larger than the maximum cross-sectional shape of the main body (11), as considered in a cross-sectional plane perpendicular to the length direction of the connector.
     
    8. A connector according to any one of the preceding claims characterised in that the protective guide (12) is semi-flexible as compared with the rigidity of the main body.
     
    9. A connector according to any one of the preceding claims characterised in that the distal end of the handle (15) is spaced from the protective guide (12).
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Elektrischer Verbinder mit länglicher Form, umfassend einen Hauptkörper (11) mit einer ersten Endregion (18), die einen oder mehrere elektrische Kontakte umfasst, die zum Kontakt mit einer komplementären Verbinderkomponente angepasst sind, und einer der ersten Endregion gegenüberliegenden zweiten Endregion (24), von der sich eine Schutzführung (12) erstreckt, durch die ein flexibler Leiter verlaufen kann, wobei der Hauptkörper des Verbinders einen Verriegelungsmechanismus (20), um dem Verbinder (10) zu ermöglichen, an eine komplementäre Verbinderkomponente selektiv freigebbar befestigt zu werden, wobei der Verbinder (10) eine Freigabesteuerung (14) umfasst, die zur Freigabe des Verbinders von der komplementären Verbinderkomponente dem Verriegelungsmechanismus operativ zugeordnet ist, und einen Griff (15) umfasst, der in einer Position, die in der Richtung der Länge des Verbinders gesehen weiter von der ersten Endregion (18) des Verbinders als von der zweiten Endregion (24) entfernt ist, betrieben werden kann, und wobei der Griff (15) relativ zur Schutzführung (12) unterstützt wird, indem er mit der Freigabesteuerung (14) verbunden oder einstückig mit ihr geformt ist, wobei der Hauptkörper (11) oder die Schutzführung (12) zwei gegenüberliegende Seitenflächen umfasst, die jeweils mit einem einer Nut oder einem die Nut in Eingriff nehmendem Vorsprung (31, 32) geformt sind, der mit einer jeweiligen einen der zwei Nuten (32) oder die Nut in Eingriff nehmenden Formierungen des Griffs zusammenwirkt, um dadurch, in Gebrauch, die Unterstützungs- und Führungsbewegung des Griffs in einer Richtung, die im Wesentlichen parallel zur Längenrichtung des elektrischen Verbinders mit länglicher Form ist, zu unterstützen, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass der Griff (15) eine offene, schlauchförmige Form aufweist, die sich um die Schutzführung (12) erstreckt und vier Seitenflächen umfasst, die mit Öffnungen versehen sind oder eine Aussparung (27) umfassen, um eine Fingergriffposition bereitzustellen.
     
    2. Verbindernach Anspruch 1, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Freigabesteuerung (14) von einer Position, die ausgerichtet ist, um in Längenrichtung des Verbinders gesehen parallel zur Schutzführung zu sein, betrieben werden kann.
     
    3. Verbinder nach Anspruch 1 oder Anspruch 2, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass der Verriegelungsmechanismus (20) im Hauptkörper des Verbinders positioniert ist und sich die Freigabesteuerung (14) von einer Position an der Oberfläche des Hauptkörpers aus mit dem Verriegelungsmechanismus verbindet.
     
    4. Verbinder nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass der Griff (15) einstückig mit der Freigabesteuerung ist.
     
    5. Verbinder nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass der Griff (15) zwei Paare von gegenüber positionierten Fingergriffpositionen umfasst.
     
    6. Verbinder nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche und dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass er Vorspannmittel (25) umfasst, durch die sich die Freigabesteuerung (14) normalerweise in einer ersten, Verriegelungsposition befindet, aber nach Anlegen von
    von auf den Griff (15) angelegten Kraft in der Längenrichtung des Verbinders , um
    gegen die Vorspannmittel zu wirken, in einer Richtung von der ersten Endregion (18) zur zweiten Endregion (24) des Verbinders eine Bewegung der Freigabesteuerung zur zweiten, Freigabeposition bewirkt.
     
    7. Verbinder nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass der Griff (15) eine Querschnittform aufweist, die nicht größer als die maximale Querschnittform des Hauptkörpers (11) ist, gesehen in einer Querschnittebene, die rechtwinklig zur Längsrichtung des Verbinders ist.
     
    8. Verbinder nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Schutzführung (12) im Vergleich zur Starrheit des Hauptkörpers halbflexibel ist.
     
    9. Verbinder nach einem der vorangehenden Ansprüche, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das distale Ende des Griffs (15) von der Schutzführung (12) beabstandet ist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Connecteur électrique de forme allongée comprend un corps principal (11) possédant une première zone d'extrémité (18) qui comprend un ou plusieurs contacts électriques adaptés pour être en contact avec un composant de connecteur complémentaire et une seconde zone d'extrémité (24) opposée à ladite première zone d'extrémité et à partir de laquelle s'étend un guide de protection (12) à travers lequel un conducteur souple peut s'étendre, ledit corps principal du connecteur comprenant un mécanisme de verrouillage (20) pour permettre au connecteur (10) d'être fixé sélectivement de manière amovible à un composant de connecteur complémentaire, le connecteur (10) comprenant une commande de libération (14) associée fonctionnellement au mécanisme de verrouillage pour la libération du connecteur du composant de connecteur complémentaire, et une poignée (15) pouvant être utilisée au niveau d'une position plus éloignée de la première zone d'extrémité (18) du connecteur que ne l'est ladite seconde zone d'extrémité (24) tandis qu'elle est considérée selon la direction de la longueur du connecteur et ladite poignée (15) étant supportée par rapport au guide de protection (12) en étant connectée à la commande de libération (14) ou formée d'un seul tenant avec celle-ci, ledit corps principal (11) ou ledit guide de protection (12) comprenant deux faces latérales opposées formées chacune avec l'une d'une rainure ou d'une saillie (31, 32) de mise en prise de rainure qui coopère avec l'une respective des deux rainure (32) ou formations de mise en prise de rainure de la poignée, pour ainsi aider, lors de l'utilisation, au support et au guidage du mouvement de la poignée selon une direction sensiblement parallèle à la direction de longueur du connecteur électrique allongé, caractérisé en ce que la poignée (15) possède une forme tubulaire ouverte qui s'étend autour du guide de protection (12) et comprend quatre faces latérales munis d'ouvertures ou comprenant un évidement (27) pour fournir une position de préhension des doigts.
     
    2. Connecteur selon la revendication 1, caractérisé en ce que la commande de libération (14) peut être utilisée à partir d'une position alignée devant être parallèle audit guide de protection, tandis qu'elle est considérée selon la direction de longueur du connecteur.
     
    3. Connecteur selon la revendication 1 ou 2, caractérisé en ce que le mécanisme de verrouillage (20) est positionné à l'intérieur du corps principal du connecteur et la commande de libération (14) se connecte au mécanisme de verrouillage à partir d'une position à la surface du corps principal.
     
    4. Connecteur selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce que la poignée (15) fait partie intégrante de la commande de libération.
     
    5. Connecteur selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce que la poignée (15) comprend deux paires de positions de préhension de doigt positionnées de manière opposée.
     
    6. Connecteur selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes et caractérisé en ce qu'il comprend des moyens de sollicitation (25) grâce auxquels la commande de libération (14) réside normalement dans une première position de verrouillage mais lors de l'application d'une
    force appliquée à la poignée (15) selon la direction de longueur du connecteur, pour
    agir contre les moyens de sollicitation, selon une direction allant de la première zone d'extrémité (18) jusqu'à la seconde zone d'extrémité (24) du connecteur, effectue le mouvement de la commande de libération vers la seconde position de libération.
     
    7. Connecteur selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce que la poignée (15) possède une forme en coupe transversale pas plus grande que la forme en coupe transversale maximale du corps principal (11), tandis qu'elle est considérée dans un plan en coupe transversale perpendiculaire à la direction de longueur du connecteur.
     
    8. Connecteur selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce que le guide de protection (12) est semi-souple en comparaison à la rigidité du corps principal.
     
    9. Connecteur selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, caractérisé en ce que l'extrémité distale de la poignée (15) est espacée du guide de protection (12).
     




    Drawing














    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description